Island Has an Inadvertent Tsunami Dry Run; Enough Stripers to Overcome the Jinx Monster

By JAY MANN | May 01, 2019
Photo by: Surf City Bait and Tackle TJ Loughran's third striped bass weigh-in of the  season. It's 20.06 lbs; 38 1/4”.

Long Beach Island — MANN OVERBOARD: I lived through LBI’s first “Tsunami Alert!” What’s more, it afforded me an overall relief about future – and realer – tidal wave arrivals.

As you might have heard, the Harvey Cedars Police Department Nixled out a big-wave warning on Monday, quite erroneously, as luck would have it. “Tsunami Warning until 02:06 p.m. … Severity: Extreme: Extraordinary Threat to Life or Property.” There was likely more to the alert, but I had suddenly developed an immediate interest in the exact time. A possible monster wave is bearing down and I’m struggling with a World Clock app. “No, I don’t want to know the exact time in Zimbabwe!”

Turned out the tsunami was little more than an honest wrong-button computer mistake – just in case you hadn’t guessed. In nothing flat, the warning was withdrawn, though not before having an instantaneous impact on the forever-vigilant, never-sleeping social media. Mixing metaphors, the big-wave warning spread like wildfire.

I’m fairly certain nobody took flight or suffered heart palpitations over the misfired warning. Instead, chuckling comments flooded in, though a couple/few irascible folks soon sardonically chimed about the implicit danger of any such screwups. One particularly dramatic commenter went with the tried and tested “Now we won’t be sure when a real one comes.” That’s hurricanes, dude, hurricanes.

Believe me, this local Nixle faux pas was nothing like the truly terrifying “Incoming Nuclear Missile Attack” warning loosed in Hawaii last year. That one all but exploded across radio, television and social media. Making imminent-destruction matters worse, it arrived right as North Korea was brazenly bragging about its newfound ability to reach America with its ballistic armaments. My friends in the islands truly and really believed the end was near. I recall that many fled to the go-to shelter of … bathrooms. I would have quickly needed a bathroom for a whole other reason. Despite that false apocalyptic alarm, Hawaiian folks have every intention of being just as horrified at any future “Incoming!” alerts. By the by, I’m betting the bathroom escape concept won’t fly when girding for a tsunami … unless that bathroom happens to be in the Poconos.

As to what I gained from this tsunami test run, I will now sleep easier knowing we have a relatively viable real-time tsunami alert system in place – you know, for when a Rhode Island-sized asteroid hits the North Atlantic. Having my back is the world’s fastest grapevine. Social media rocks. It quells my long-lived anguish over our Island’s not having a tsunami warning siren system. Developing such a siren system has been repeatedly panned by authorities, alleging it would only panic people to know a 100-foot wave was closing in. Duh … yeh.

With the internet always ready to Paul Revere a sirenesque tsunami warning, survival-prone folks will surely have easily enough time to grab a good book, some snacks and reentry pass before heading to higher ground – for me, that will be atop the Apple Pie Hill fire tower, Chatsworth – since the Forked River Mountains will be overcrowded.

Of course, with my luck, I’ll be incommunicado in the deepest recesses of far-end Holgate as online alarms frantically fly. I would then realize a vivid dream I once had where I drove off Holgate to soon find an abandoned Beach Haven, totally void of people and vehicles … just tumbleweeds blowing along the Bay Avenue. I remember my final dream thought being “Where the hell did these tumbleweeds come from?” i.e. a perfect time to wake up.

NO RELEASE: I was contacted by a balloon-bursting organization known as Balloons Blow, a group that advocates for the prohibition of helium balloon releases. New Jersey is on it, as legislation to stop such releases is moving upward in Trenton, possibly becoming an official ban this year.

Balloons Blow is dutifully and rightfully warning that we are moving into one of the biggest balloon times of the year: graduation. While such inflatable displays of colorful congratulation are great for heightening the spirits of grads, they can eventually become a downer in many other ways.

It’s well known that helium-filled balloons are a bugaboo for naturalists and environmentalists. In coastal regions, a balloon’s down-the-line impacts can cause serious indigestion woes for marine life. Many sea creatures see the brightly colored sky fallings as potential manna from heaven. “Oh, this looks delicious. And school-bus yellow is my favorite flavor.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the Balloon Council, a highly pro-balloon group, is also on the no-release bandwagon, though it concurrently claims, “No balloon has ever been shown to be the cause of death for a sea mammal.” In the same breath, the group openly admits deflated or degraded balloons can be dangerous should they be eaten by sea creatures and become lodged in an animal’s digestive tract.

A feral helium-filled “natural” latex balloon, upon ascending to an altitude of about 5 miles, degrades into spaghetti-like slivers that essentially rain down to, ideally, biodegrade. Even when ingested, this degrading carries on. However, most rubber balloons are now made of chemical-treated latex that not only degrades more slowly, but also has a chemical component that isn’t the best thing for nature – or a marine animal’s gastrointestinal lining.

Choosing to assume a greener stance, the Balloon Council acknowledges, “Americans love balloons, but for many reasons no longer support balloon releases. Balloon makers have worked hard to share and inspire the use of (them) to keep balloons available for every occasion. We stand with communities by encouraging that balloons be weighted, not released outdoors, and disposed of properly when broken or deflated. Whether it's a single balloon or hundreds, let’s keep them from flying away.”

For details about “Smart Balloon Practices” see theballooncouncil.org.

At this point, I’ll chime in that returned-to-earth balloons are also hard to digest for outdoorsish humans, who come across balloon corpses even in the deepest entrails of the outback. I’ve even found them crashed down in Ong’s Hat. For those familiar with the Pine Barrens, that doubly proves my point.

Ironically, mankind’s first go at balloons was fairly natural. Animal bladders were filled with air. It was Michael Faraday’s inventiveness in 1824 that began the ascent of balloons into popularity. He sewed together two sheets of flour-covered rubber, glued the edges and filled his prototypical balloon with hydrogen. His invention got such a rise that London entrepreneurs refined a way to mass produce everyday balloons, using vulcanized rubber. In Europe, the public response itself ballooned.

America was a bit slow in taking to balloons. However, once manufacturing began here in 1907, we showed our true partying colors, soon leading the world in production and usages.

The first signs of eco-troubles from balloons wouldn’t arise until the 1970s. Not only were chemicalized latex balloons replacing all-natural material, but foil and, eventually, Mylar balloons burst forth. Far more resilient against decay, these became the standard for glamorizing birthdays, holidays, graduations and, most notably, public events, where mass balloon releases became the norm.

It might be said the rest is environmental history – and not in a light and airy sense. The aesthetic and ecological fallout of lighter-than-air balloons becoming trash from the sky has hurt the industry, without totally grounding it. It now comes down to keeping it natural (material) and contained (weighed down) when going the celebratory balloon route. Both Balloons Blow and the Balloon Council suggest “dropping” balloons down – not releasing them upward.  See balloonsblow.org for safer ballooning. And congratulations on your graduation!

RUNDOWN: I’m not sure how to safely go about encapsulating this week’s hot-ish rundown. My fear is evoking the wrath of the jinx monster. That hints at how good – and wide ranging – the spring striped bass bite has become. It has flared mightily for nearshore boat fishermen and charters, especially for boats captained by those attuned to the spring stripering strings.

Bigger boat bass are running to 30 pounds, though the biggest tale of spring run 2019 is the astounding size diversity, even within small areas. Where striper schools of similar sizes are the norm, folks are taking trophy fish on one cast and, on the next cast, nabbing bass as short at 12 inches. That’s weird to see such a mishmash. It might be the mass bass appeal of rapidly rising water temps, which have gone from the mid-40s to mid-50s, the latter being ideal for any and all spring stripers to merrily forage within.

The size disparity is also very apparent in the surfcasting (ocean) and bank fishing (bay) realms. I saw an N.J. photo of a pompano rig hosting a 28-inch bass on one hook and the tiniest of bass on the other. Again, that’s a plain weird mix, since big bass are not beyond scarfing down tinier members of their ilk.

Surf-wise, bass are (finally) coming out of the suds in good numbers – unseen since last spring, after our crappified fall. Surfcasting success does take time/effort – and chunk bait, bunker being the big draw.

As to plugging the suds, some friskier beach bass – a couple nearing keeperage – are going for artificials, their heightened metabolism boosted by those warming waters. Beachline waters ranging from 55 to 65 degrees can ratchet up the aggression of smaller and midsized stripers. Tossing jigs has high potential for weeks to come. I like eel-like plastics on white jigheads with white bucktail.

I’ve heard little about arriving bluefish, after that one slammer was caught just to our south, seemingly indicating the bangers were on the way. However, a nice chopper was nabbed in mid-Island surf on Monday. Problematically, the blues have not shown all that well south of us. What if just a few big blues are the whole migration shebang? Oh, that’s right, I’m the optimist in the crowd – therefore, I’ll suggest they’re merely running a tad late … even though our water temp is ideal for them.

Black drum are also generally discouragingly AWOL. This week they should appear in force. Grab some clam baits and hit the south inlet.

Loads of bycatch fluke, some doormats. They’re taking larger baits meant for larger bass. Jigs are also interesting them.

We had a good push of way-early kingfish, caught as bycatch by bassers. Most hooks, graced with bass bloodworms, were too big to get a read on how far-reaching the tasty critters were lurking – or if they’re still around. Somebody should throw a kingfish rig into the surf.

A couple reports of decent weakfish schools between here and Cape May. Although it’s only a fun fishery, per strict regulations, these are a gorgeous fish to hook, photo and gently release. Years back, I coined the term “sparklers” for them. If you’ve seen them in the sun, you might agree.

On a catch-and-release note, Massachusetts is seemingly ready to run with stricter minimum size regs. In doing so, authorities proffered what I consider a totally nutzoid suggestion that 48 percent of all catch-and-release stripers die, post let-go. That is asinine. I’ll maybe go with 4.8 percent dying … on a bad day. This is a case of conservational science responding to hysteria by fudging the facts to favor the furor.

Striped bass are bulldogs, survivalists of the highest piscatorial order. Tagged fish are proof of this. But thinking only anecdotally, can you imagine how many dead bass would be washing ashore if almost half of them die after catch-and-release? And don’t try to feed me that line that their remains will be eaten at sea. Bass have some tough armor (scales), even when dead. Few creatures can rip them apart before they wash ashore. What’s more, even if they’re munched upon by oceanic scavengers, the heads and racks would quickly wash onto the beach, as they do down Holgate way when bass are cleaned aboard and the remains thrown overboard. I’m also betting commercial netters would find c-&-r carcasses on every pull if tens of thousands of dead bass were floating from near the bottom up to the surface, as they go through different degrees of decay.

Getting less animated, there is something distinctly off on those elevated catch-and-release mortality rate numbers. It’s troubling that regulations could soon abound locally, based on them. Here’s hoping peer reviews offer a saner look at survival rates.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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